Armed with little more than a guitar, some cheeky lyrics and a free, rebellious attitude, singer-songwriter Jake Bugg is poised to take over the world. Or so they say. Since the release of his self-titled debut, it’s been nearly impossible to keep track of the nineteen-year-old’s quickly rising star in his native Britain; one second he’s aiming disses at Mumford & Sons in the press, the next, he’s photographed on the town with his baby-faced supermodel girlfriend Cara Delevigne. On this side of the pond, we’re finally starting to catch up. Obscenely catchy, foot-stomping fun first single “Lightning Bolt” was recently featured in the new Gatorade commercial so, you know, there’s nowhere to go from here but up. With a speed suggestive of its name, “Lightning Bolt” has skyrocketed Jake Bugg straight to the highest heights. Whether it’s premature or not, we’ll just have to wait to find out.
There’s no denying that Jake Bugg is living the dream. Born in Nottingham to musical parents, he dropped out of high school at 16 to pursue what are clearly his natural talents. Though he’s already (a bit too zealously) been dubbed as “the new Bob Dylan,” Bugg’s influences stem much farther than that. There are traces of 60s flower pop, garage-rock, and Britpop in his clever songwriting and oftentimes delicate sound; like if Dylan had been raised in the East Midlands on a steady diet of Oasis, Blur and Pulp. The undeniably charming Jake Bugg is filled equally with quiet country ballads (“Country Song,” “Broken,”) and nostalgic, sarcastic little ditties about growing up, crashing parties, and taking pills. On “Two Fingers,” he delivers in a deadpan manner, “I drink to remember, I smoke to forget/Some things to be proud of, some things to regret.” Bugg’s songs have universal appeal because you don’t need to be nineteen in order to relate.
It’s for these reasons that “Lightning Bolt” is the perfect first single for a singer like Jake Bugg. I found myself listening to the album opener– over and over and over again– during a recent thunderstorm (how poetic). But it wasn’t just “Lightning Bolt’s” irresistibly shaky beat that struck me. Bugg’s innocent sense of wisdom, coupled with his surprising self-awareness, adds the sort of backbone to his music that not many of his peers can replicate. “Fortune, they keep talking all about fortune/Do you make it or does it just call you?” he asks us. Later on, “Seen It All” sounds presumptuous as he quips, “I swear to God, I’ve seen it all/Nothing shocks me anymore.” Jake Bugg is good, but he’s not that good. Then again, who is at nineteen?
3.5 / 5 bars